SEO has always been a moving target. After all, the search engines are constantly evolving and improving. Most search engines continually change the algorithms they use to determine the importance of and rank of a website among the zillions of sites out of the web today.
So, it’s important that the SEO strategy you use on your website evolve too. What might have worked years (or months!) ago for your SEO probably won’t work well today, so continuously working to improve the usability of your website and to create quality content for users along with regularly staying on top of your SEO is more important than ever.
One factor that has become increasingly important for usability, and subsequently for SEO, is the speed of a website. Back in 2010, Google announced that it would start incorporating site speed into it’s search algorithm and how it returned search results. Of course, no one outside of Google truly knows the full extent or details of it’s on-going changes, but apparently Google’s algorithm would start rewarding faster loading sites by indexing them higher (as part of their full ranking algorithm) than slower loading ones.
Time to First Byte
In a 2013 study by Moz, an SEO software producer, it was found that page load times themselves did not have an impact on a site’s SEO ranking, but Time to First Byte (TTFB) did. Time to First Byte is the time it takes for a web server to return the first byte of a website from a URL request. Moz’s findings showed that Google’s search algorithm did award the speed of the back-end of a web site’s structure, and therefore the speed of the server to load a website was important to SEO.
While TTFB happens behind the scenes on your web server, front end page load times can vastly affect the bounce rate of your site too … and that can certainly affect your SEO.
Having a faster loading site can be a very important factor in the usability of your website, but that isn’t really something new, is it? How many times have you quickly left a website that took forever to load? It’s human nature… we’re busy and don’t want to wait around just for a website just to load. If the web page takes a long time to load, users may quickly leave (bounce off of your site) and your SEO bounce rate goes up. Since high bounce rates can negatively affect your SEO ranking, it’s important for your website to load quickly and to be optimized for user experience.
The answer is easy: faster loading websites = happier users = potentially better search rankings.